The second round of the NBA and NHL Playoffs are about to start. I am an NBA fan at heart but I would like to admit that the NHL Playoffs have been more exciting.

For the first time in the NHL history, the top teams from both conferences have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Yes, you read that correctly. The Carolina Hurricanes completed this feat after defeating the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of their first-round series.

The loss of the Capitals, who were the Metropolitan Division winners and the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, ensured that we will have a new Stanley Cup Champion for the 19th time in 20 seasons. Washington joined the Tampa Bay Lightning (Atlantic Division), Nashville Predators (Central Division) and Calgary Flames (Pacific Division) as the top dogs eliminated in Round One.

With the favorites gone, the question now is who will win each conference? Well, let me start by saying this year’s Stanley Cup is one of the most wide-open races in most recent NHL history. Let’s take a look at the remaining teams and pick who will win each conference:

“Hockey" Who Will Win The Eastern Conference?

The Boston Bruins have a team that has been top-notch all-season long. They aren’t troubled by adversity and they always find ways to win a big game. Boston is gritty and the key to their success is their do-everything top line. During Game 7 against the Maple Leafs, they showed that they can also get scoring from other lines. Meanwhile, Goalie Tuukka Rask has played very well as of late.

The New York Islanders were first in the league in goals against during the regular season and they held the Penguins to 1.5 goals per game. Their penalty-killing is good and the goaltending is top level. This is the kind of defense that gets you far in the playoffs. And having plenty of rest after sweeping Penguins while facing an opponent that waged a seven-game series war against the defending champions, the Islanders look good in the second round.

Eastern Conference Winner

Odds from Bovada as of 4/25/19

  • Boston Bruins +170
  • New York Islanders +275
  • Columbus Blue Jackets +315
  • Carolina Hurricanes +350

The Columbus Blue Jackets swept the lightning in the first round and look like they are peaking at the right time. Star forwards Matts Duchene and Artemi Panarin plus defensemen Seth Jones and Zach Werenski are showing the way. They play a physical style similar to the Bruins but have better depth. They have momentum, a fired-up fan base and are scoring 4.75 goals per game after round one.

The Carolina Hurricanes just knocked off the defending Stanley Cup champions. They showed that they can control the game flow, they did that against the Capitals. The ability of their defense to move the puck around has proven to be a weapon. Carolina is a fun, resilient and tight team that is well coached. They also have played almost flawlessly at home.

Prediction: Boston Bruins. They have been the more consistent team all season and play well when under pressure. Boston is also the new betting favorite ( after the first round) to win the Stanley Cup so that also says a lot about how good they are.

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“Hockey" Who Will Win the Western Conference?

San Jose’s come-from-behind win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 was so unbelievable that makes you think if the Hockey gods want the Sharks to win it all this season. Not to mention that they won three in a row to knock off the Golden Knights in Round one of the playoffs. San Jose is a complete team and with the experience needed to win playoff games. If goalie Martin Jones continues to trend in the right direction, he will be the x-factor for this team.

Save for one game, the St. Louis Blues held the much deeper Jets team in check in round one of the playoffs. Goalie Jordan Binnington is capable of keeping his team in games with his goalkeeping abilities. If he can keep top form throughout the postseason, the Blues are in good shape. The Blues’ power play has been sharp so far and that too is going to be a factor for them moving forward.

Western Conference Winner

Odds from Bovada as of 4/25/19

  • San Jose Sharks +185
  • St. Louis Blues +230
  • Colorado Avalanche +350
  • Dallas Stars +350

The Colorado Avalanche aren’t just a great story this season but have a dynamic offensive attack with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. Without question, MacKinnon is one of the top five players in the league. MacKinnon’s speed and power are going to be the key for the Avalanche offense. Colorado goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer and the rest of the defense played solid in shutting down the Calgary Flames offense.

Dallas’ line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov is probably the best line left in the current playoffs. The three combined for seven goals and 18 points in the first round and will be a problem for their opponents the rest of the way. The Stars’ goalie Ben Bishop has been spectacular in the postseason with a .945 save percentage and 1.90 goals-against average in the first round. Dallas’ penalty killing was perfect against the Predators and their commitment to defense is a good thing in the playoffs.

Prediction: San Jose Sharks. San Jose’ comeback over the Knights was something for the ages. I think they turned a corner in Game 7 and it may be their destiny to win at least the Western Conference this season.

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